Raven - Part Two
After getting directions on how to exit the hospital, Saliya found her way to the emergency triage. As she walked down the hall, she saw open bays to either side, many with privacy screens pulled. One screen was hastily pushed aside, and two doctors stepped out of the bay.
"Don't feel bad," said one doctor to her companion. "You did all you could. There was just too much damage."
The other doctor didn't respond but grimly nodded. As Saliya passed that bay, she heard a scream.
"Not again," she sighed.
She looked in the bay and saw a man standing beside a bed. The man was covered in second degree burns and blood. He was staring right at Saliya in absolute terror.
"Y-you're dead! I saw your head by the side of the road!" he raved. This must be the guy who was in the car accident with me,
thought Saliya. However, the thing that disturbed her was the man lying in the bed who was identical to the man talking to her down to the last burn mark.
Saliya pointed to the bed's occupant. "Is that your brother?"
The man turned and paled. "Oh no," he whispered. "This can't be."
Saliya walked up to the man. "Hey, you okay?"
"I think...I'm dead."
Saliya looked hard at the accident victim. Suddenly, she noticed that he was slightly transparent. She could just make out the IV stand through his chest. "I...think you're right." Saliya reached out and touched him. She could feel his body as if it were solid, yet instinctively she new that it wasn't.
The man looked down at Saliya's hand. "So, what now?"
Saliya looked at him with some pity. She didn't know whose fault the car accident that killed them both had been, be she was certain that it didn't matter any more. "I'm sorry."
The dead man's spirit looked up at Saliya. "But, that still doesn't explain how come you're still alive and unharmed."
Saliya shook her head. "I don't think I am."
"But, you're flesh and blood," said the shade. "I can see it."
Just then, a nurse came walking in. "Excuse me, but you can't be in here."
Saliya turned to the nurse. "I was just talking to this poor guy."
The nurse stared at Saliya, then she glanced toward the bed. "You...do realize that he's dead...right?"
Saliya nodded. "Of course." Saliya realized that the nurse couldn't see the spirit of the dead man standing beside the bed. "I was just, you know, praying for him."
"Oh," said the nurse, still uncertain of Saliya's sanity. "Well, we have a chapel for that. You can't be in here."
"Alright," acquiesced Saliya. As she turned to leave, she looked back. "You coming?"
"I'm sorry?" asked the confused nurse.
The shade nodded and followed Saliya out of the hospital. Saliya led the way to a small park across the street from the hospital. She found a stone bench and sat down on it. The shade remained standing looking about nervously.
Shouldn't I be going somewhere," he asked uncertainly.
"I don't know," said Saliya. "It seems I'm meant to stay here. I not sure about you."
A loud, raucous sound caught Saliya's attention. She looked up into a beech tree that was overhanging the bench. In on if the branches rested a raven. It was preening its glossy black feathers in the shade. Then, it stopped and looked straight at Saliya with an intensity that gave her chills. A kind of spark passed between them. It was like nothing that Saliya had even experienced. She blinked and shook her head as if she were waking from a strange dream.
"That bird," whispered Saliya.
The shade looked up. "What is that? Some kind of crow?"
"It's way to big to be a crow," said Saliya. "I think it's a raven."
"Heh, well that suits you," said the shade with a chuckle. "With all that black on you rather look like a raven yourself." He sketched an exaggerated bow. "Wither goest thou, Lady Raven?"
The raven tilted its head quizzically and cawed. Saliya inhaled suddenly. The shade looked at Saliya curiously. "What's wrong?"
"I can understand it," said Saliya. "It just said hello to me."
"I think resurrection has made you a bit loopy," said the shade shaking his head.
Saliya looked at the shade with a shocked expression. Was that what happened to her? Was she resurrected from the dead. To what end? The raven cawed in a series of throaty vocalizations. To anyone listening, it sounded as if it were defending its territory against rivals, but to Saliya, it was speaking to her as clearly as the shade was.
"So, what's it saying, Dr. Dolittle?" laughed the shade.
The raven turned toward him and cawed. The shade took a step back. "It...it can see me!"
"He said you're rude," said Saliya with a smirk. "He also said that he was here to lead you to your next plane of existence."
The shade looked frightened. "Am...am I going to hell?"
Saliya looked at the raven. "Is he?" The raven cawed a response and fluttered its wings. Saliya turned back to the shade. "You're being taken to a place of waiting, he says. The Final Destination won't be determined until the End of All. Whatever that means."
This didn't seem to sit well with the shade. "What's going to happen to me?" The raven cawed a single short note.
"You are to wait," translated Saliya. "Sorry, but I think that's all you're going to get."
In a flurry of wingbeats, the raven lifted itself from the branch and swooped down toward the shade, which made an attempt to run. The raven, however, was much to quick. It snatched up the shade and carried it higher and higher into the air until Saliya could no longer make it out in the brightly lit sky.
"I hope he'll be okay," said Saliya with earnest feeling. She still didn't know what she should do. She wasn't hungry, and she didn't suppose that the walking dead needed to eat in any case. Despite what Dr. Goethe had told her, she decided that maybe she could try going home. There was nowhere else for her to go. Her clutch purse had survived the car accident pretty much intact. A few scorches could be seen around the edges and corners and the brass clasp was tarnished. Saliya opened the purse and sorted through the items inside. She had just enough cash to get a taxi home.
* * *
The cab pulled in front of her apartment building. Saliya paid the cab driver, and he sped off to find another fare. Saliya looked up at her old apartment building. What was she doing here? Just then the sound of flapping wings materialized behind her followed by a sudden weight dropping onto her right shoulder.
"Gaah!" scream Saliya with a start. "What the hell are you doing?"
The raven playfully nipped Saliya's ear and cawed.
"Guide?" asked Saliya. "What do you mean, you're my guide?"
The raven cawed and adjusted his footing on Saliya's shoulder. "I've been...recruited? Whatever for?"
The raven tilted his head and studied Saliya. The piercing gaze made Saliya feel uncomfortable. The raven cawed a lengthy discourse before shaking its head and ruffling its throat feathers.
"So, I've been chosen to escort the souls of the dead into this...holding pattern?" asked Saliya. "Why me?"
The raven cawed a short clipped caw.
Saliya stiffened. "I am not ungrateful! Why should I have a second chance at life? I don't think that's fair. I'm sure there are other people more deserving of another chance at life than I am."
The raven clicked its beak.
"Hey, what are you laughing at?"
The raven cawed a little and clicked its beak once more.
"Wha-? I am not selfless. I'm the most selfish person I know."
The raven merely clicked its beak.
"Well, I'm glad someone is amused." Saliya sighed and walked toward the entrance. As she passed through the foyer, she drew odd stares from people who happened to notice the rather imposing looking black bird riding her shoulder.
"You're embarrassing me," she whispered to the raven. The raven clicked its beak. "Is everything funny to you?"
Saliya called for an elevator. It didn't take long for one of the cars to arrive. As the doors opened, a man stepped out and caught himself up short as he spotted Saliya.
"I say," he said with some affront. "I don't recall them allowing pets in this apartment."
"You must have missed the landlord's last memo," said Saliya with a simpering smile.
"Oh," said the resident uncertainly. "Yes, well..."
Saliya pushed past him and selected her floor. The raven fluttered its wings nervously. No doubt it was unused to being in such a confined space. It was a quick trip to the floor where her apartment was. Saliya walked the length of the hall until she reached her room. She was just about to put her key into the lock when she heard laughter inside the room.
"I swear, it's a shame she died in that car accident like that, but finally I'm rid of her. I mean, she was totally destroying my social life. Wouldn't let me have any parties. Always a stickler for the rules."
Saliya recognized the voice. It was her roommate. The two never really got on much, but managed to keep the peace.
"I doubt anybody'd even show up at her funeral. She was such a loser."
"So, how are you gonna keep paying for this place without a roommate to cover half the rent?" This was from one of her roommate's friends. An odiously pampered bunch of brats that Saliya had nothing to do with. Not that it mattered since they wouldn't even speak to Saliya.
"Well, I was hoping one of you girls would move in with me."
Saliya put her key into the lock and jiggled it. It was always a problem getting the key to work, and the landlord seemed uninterested in getting the lock fixed no matter how much they complained.
"Hey, someone's got a key," said a voice. "Do you think it's the landlord?"
"I hope so," said Saliya's roommate. "Maybe now he'll fix that stupid lock."
Finally, Saliya managed to get the key to turn. She opened the door slowly and remained standing in the doorway.
There in the sitting room were three young women, all with pale white faces etched in masks of horror. Saliya felt something that she had never felt before in the presence of these materialistic harridans. She felt as if she were in control.
"Hello, dear roomie," said Saliya in sweet tones. "I bring you greetings from the Underworld."
Saliya's roommate's hand twitched and the glass of expensive wine that she had been drink slipped from her hand and bounced upon the shag carpet leaving an oozing purple stain. "I-it can't be," she managed to utter. "They said you died in that car accident. They said you'd been decapitated."
Saliya smiled. "I did, and I was. You see, I'm still dead. I just thought I'd come by to pick up a few personal items, and oh, maybe haunt you for a while."
Saliya's roommate blinked. Then she regained her composure. "Well, obviously someone was playing a very nasty joke on me. You seemed to be looking quite well for one who's supposed to be dead." Her smarmy smirk had reseated itself upon her face. "Looks like I'm still stuck with you."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that," said Saliya. "I'm moving out."
"Really?" said Saliya's roommate. She had a cautious look on her face, as if she were expecting someone to jump out and yell surprise.
"Oh, yes," said Saliya. "After all, you wouldn't want to continue living with a loser." Saliya's roommate stiffened. "So," she continued turning to her roommate's two cohorts, "which one of you lucky ladies gets to take my place, hmm?" The two other women in the room looked at one another uncertainly. "Anyway, I'll just pack up a few things and be on my way."
"My dear, what is that thing on your shoulder?" asked Saliya's roommate.
"What?" asked Saliya with some confusion. Then, with an exaggerated expression of realization, she pointed to the raven on her shoulder. "Oh, you mean my familiar? Well, you know all us witches have them."
Saliya gasped. "You mean all this time we've lived together and you never knew I was a witch? Oh, my. How unobservant."
The raven gave out a loud throaty call that made the three women jump. Saliya reached up and stroked the feathers on its throat. The bird leaned into the caress. "Well," said Saliya's roommate, "it a good thing you are moving out, then. I'm quite sure they don't allow animals in this apartment."
"So, you actually did read at least some of the rules, eh Maddie?" said Saliya.
Saliya's roommate bristled. "I've told you a hundred times. My name is Madeline, not Maddie."
Saliya smiled. "Whatever."
She walked off towards her room and shut the door behind her. She looked up at the raven. "That was amazing! I've never felt so...confident around her before. Did you do that?" The raven cawed. "I guess you're right. Being dead really does mean having nothing left to lose."
Saliya searched her room for things she felt she would need. The raven fluttered over to a bedpost and surveyed the room from there. Saliya grabbed her checkbook and her bank statements and stuff them into a small shoulder bag.
"I'm gonna need money," she explained to the raven. The bird croaked quizzically. "Why? I need to buy food and find a place to sleep." The raven cawed. Saliya stood up and faced the raven. "What do you mean, I don't eat or sleep." The raven cawed again. "Then, what, pray tell, is keeping me alive?" The raven tilted his head, but said nothing. "So, what, it's some kind of company secret or something?"
The raven fluffed its wings momentarily and croaked out a query. "You're changing the subject." The raven flapped its wings vigorously. "Alright, alright. You don't have to tell me. Say, what do I call you anyway?" The raven tilted its head and croaked. "Well, I can't just very well say, 'Hey, you with the wings.'" The raven seemed to ponder this for a moment. It fluttered over to the desk and rested on the computer monitor. The raven gave out a short call.
"You want me to pick a name?" asked Saliya. She sat down on the bed. "How about...Corbie? Pretty clever, huh? Corbie's another name for raven." The raven croaked flatly. "Oh, well excuse me, O mighty sensei. You did ask me to pick a name." She thought a moment. "Speaking of which, I should use a different name myself since Saliya Ramone is technically and officially deceased."
The raven flew to her shoulder and settled itself comfortably. It clicked its beak and nuzzled Saliya's hair. "Well, I think that ghost back at the hospital had pretty much pegged it for me. From now on, call me Raven."Part Three